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The Inside Scoop: Kunitz Update, Maatta and Matchups

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens held a Friday afternoon practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex following their 4-3 overtime loss to the Caps in Game 1 Thursday night.

Here are the news and notes from the day.

Pens winger Chris Kunitz was injured in the third period of Game 1 after he was struck by an errand puck on the bench. He left the game and did not return. Kunitz is listed as day-to-day by the team.

“It’s unfortunate,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “There wasn’t a lot of time to react the way the puck came to the bench, really quick. Hopefully Chris is going to be OK. We think he will be.”

The Pens were overall very pleased with their performance in their 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1. While they didn’t play the perfect game, the outcome could have gone to either team.

“This game could have gone either way,” Sullivan said. “It was an even game. Our guys played hard. I thought we carried stretches of momentum for long periods of time. It didn’t go our way. We’ll learn from it, put it behind us and try to get Game 2.”

Center Matt Cullen may have had the best line to sum up the Pens’ performance.

“It’s a matter of getting to our 60-minute game. We didn’t have a complete night,” he said following the game. “It wasn’t a disaster. It wasn’t our best. It wasn’t our worst. It just wasn’t good enough.”

Pens forward Conor Sheary was in some discomfort after being hit leg-on-leg by Capitals forward Tom Wilson.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety fined Wilson $2,403.67, the maximum allowable under the CBA for kneeing Sheary, who did not practice on Friday.

Despite the hit, the Pens want to focus on the game at hand.

“We’re just going to play,” Sullivan said. “We’re just going to play hockey, and the refs are going to call it the way they see it. Our guys are going to play.”

Pens defenseman Olli Maatta was asked by the media if he is physically limited in anyway.

“No,” he responded. “I feel fine.”

Maatta missed the final nine regular-season games with a lower-body injury. He struggled in Game 2 against the NY Rangers in in the First Round and responded with a remarkable Game 3.

The Pens coaches expect the same from him this time around.

“It’s a game of mistakes and everybody makes them out there,” Sullivan said. “The most important thing that I like about our players is how we respond to them. Olli has done a terrific job all year long when things don’t go his way. He responds the right way. His body of work this year has been terrific for our team.”

One of the matchups that Caps head coach Barry Trotz chose to use, having the last change at home, was using the Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie line up against the Pens’ Conor Sheary – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist line.

“It was a match that we anticipated,” Sullivan said. “They went a lot against each other in the regular season. We’re certainly comfortable with that.”

The Pens had a fully stacked load of players at practice. The only absentees were Kunitz, Sheary, Cullen and Bryan Rust. All three goaltenders, which includes Marc-Andre Fleury, took part.

*Evgeni Malkin was teammates and roommates with Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik. And he noted that Orpik tried to learn Russian in order to better communication with him. But, how good was Orpik’s Russian? “Not bad, not bad,” Malkin said. “Better than almost anybody else in here.”

*Matt Murray on the overtime winning goal: “(Oshie) made a good play. He had a little bit of time and space driving wide so I had to respect the shot and try and stay aggressive. I did that. I thought I beat him to the post. Apparently the puck crossed the line.”

*Sullivan on the overtime goal: “I didn’t see all of the angles. They (refs) saw one that they felt it went in.”

*Murray on his game: “I was happy with how I played. I like how I competed. A couple bad goals. That last one was a little bit questionable. You analyze it and move on.”

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